Forces from the Misrata and Zintan brigade fought an intensive machine gun battle in Tripoli on Wednesday. Initially reports said the . . .[restrict]fighting had started over an argument about control of the beach house of Saadi Qaddafi opposite the closed Marriott Hotel. In fact it was over a young woman arrested on suspicion of links to Qaddafi and held by the Mistrata brigade at the house.
The two brigades played the major role in the liberation of Tripoli in August and remain arbiters of power in the city.
It is now reported that, for personal reasons, another women informed on the women at the centre of the clash, telling the Misrata brigade that she had collaborated with Qaddafi. When she was arrested, her mother complained to the Zintan brigade that she had been kidnapped by members of the Misrata forces. Fighting broke out when Zintan forces then tried to rescue her. Other embers of the two brigades then rushed to join battle in armed pick-up trucks
There is thought to have been casualties. Ambulances rushed to the site which over which rose a pillar of thick smoke although interior ministry forces had blocked off the road to the beach. These did not, however, intervene. But by late afternoon the situation had calmed down following talks between the two sides in which the Misrata brigade explained the reasons for her arrest.
Disputes by armed groups over control of city neighbourhoods are common. Not all are between brigades. Local armed gangs are also involved. On 23 January, there was major nighttime gun battle involving not just machine guns but rocket-propelled grenades as well in the central district of Fashloum, scene of strong opposition to Qaddafi last year in the months before Tripoli fell. The cause was said to be a turf rivalry between armed young drugs dealers. Eight members of two local gangs reportedly quarreled and started firing at each other. The local brigade had to intervene. In the ensuing fighting, three people were reportedly killed and five wounded. Local property was also damaged. A number of armed youths were subsequently caught and arrested.
The sound of machine gun firing is common at night in Tripoli. Much is bravado and showing-off by youngsters with guns but it is also a case of local gangs demonstrating their “control” of the neighbourhood. Two days after the Fashloum fighting, there was a short machine gun battle in the square outside the city’s Catholic church between two rival gangs of youngsters. None of them appeared older that 16 years of age. Fortunately no one was injured.